Chancellor’s Statement on Afghanistan, Haiti, Wildfires and COVID-19

Chancellor Gary S. May issued the following statement today (Aug. 20):

In recent days, news of Afghanistan’s citizens in peril, a devastating earthquake in Haiti, destructive wildfires and the surging Delta variant has touched all of us in the UC Davis community, causing grief and sorrow for many. We have Haitian and Afghan families who are part of our larger community, as well as families who have suffered from the fires and COVID-19. I want to express my condolences to those who have experienced losses resulting from these tragedies.

These events can be overwhelming, but I am grateful to see Aggies responding to support people in need, both here at home and a world away. Here are a few ways that is happening:

  • We are working through Global Affairs to support an Afghan scholar and their family through the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, the only global agency that funds and arranges fellowships for threatened and displaced scholars. We also have joined the Scholars at Risk Network, which works to protect threatened scholars from around the world.
  • Professor Keith David Watenpaugh and about a dozen interns are encouraging people in Afghanistan and Haiti to preserve their educational and professional records in the Article 26 Backpack developed by UC Davis. The Backpack is available in Dari/Farsi, the official language of Afghanistan, and in French, which is widely spoken in Haiti, as well as in English, Arabic and Spanish. A web page with Afghanistan Emergency Resource Information has been posted. A story about the launch of the Backpack in Lebanon gives background. In the fall of 2018, the Backpack project held a workshop at the Sacramento Food Bank to enroll Afghan refugees who had special visas for working with the U.S. military in Afghanistan and had come to the area. Watenpaugh spoke about the Backpack on The Backdrop podcast in June.
  • We have reached out to our international students from Haiti here at UC Davis to offer them support and help meet their needs during this difficult time.
  • Over the past two months, personnel from the UC Davis Fire Department have helped fight six major fires in Northern California. A crew of four is currently working the McFarland Fire, burning west of Red Bluff. Watch a video from the Tamarack Fire to see the conditions they brave.
  • Members of our UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team, or VERT, headed to Plumas County to help with animals injured in the Dixie fire. VERT members are registered Disaster Healthcare Volunteers, or DHV, at the DHV Medical Reserve Corps and also serve as Disaster Service Worker Volunteers at the Yolo County Office of Emergency Services. 
  • UC Davis continues to help the community stay healthy through its work at the forefront of solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, UC Davis Health is offering booster shots to vulnerable individuals whose immune systems are compromised. In addition, hospital staff are helping patients navigate the aftermath of COVID-19, including one patient who changed his mind about the vaccine after suffering rare and severe complications from the disease. In addition, through Healthy Davis Together, UC Davis continues to work with the city of Davis and with Yolo County, keeping the COVID-19 positivity rate in the city substantially lower than the California average.

While UC Davis can be part of the solution to these weighty issues, sometimes people just need support to get through hard times — including those who are working to solve these problems. I hope that students, staff and faculty in need of help will reach out to the counseling services offered on campus.

The dedication and empathy of UC Davis faculty, staff and students continues to inspire me. It shows that, every day, UC Davis will continue with its commitment to find solutions to the world’s problems.

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Melissa Blouin, News and Media Relations, 530-752-2542,

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